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Libyans celebrate their freedom

Libyans have celebrated their new-found freedom with prayers and joyous chants in Tripoli's main square, marking the start of a major Muslim holiday.

Men in their holiday finest knelt in prayer rows in Martyrs' Square, the plaza formerly known as Green Square, where Muammar Gaddafi's supporters massed nightly during the uprising.

Women in black robes ululated, rebel fighters fired guns in the air and people burst into spontaneous chants of "Hold your head high, Libya is free!"

In one corner, five rebel fighters formed a reception line, like at a wedding, and civilians walked up to them, shaking their hands in gratitude. In another area of the square, people crowded around a thick metal pole decorated with political cartoons, one depicting Gaddafi as a pig and another as a monster on a psychiatrist's couch.

Adel Taghdi, 47, choked back tears as watched the festivities. Having spent years in Canada, he said he had felt no sense of belonging when he saw Gaddafi's green flag. Now, he said, he is proud of Libyans and his country.

"I never felt that way before," said Taghdi, who owns a tile shop in the capital. "We just want to live free."

The day marked the start of the three-day holiday of Eid el-Fitr, which caps the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Morning visits to cemeteries are part of the Eid el-Fitr tradition across the region. At Tripoli's Bin-Shir cemetery, dozens of concrete graves had been made for those killed in the uprising against Gaddafi, particularly the week of battles for control of Tripoli that began when rebel fighters entered August 20.

Many of the cement grave covers were unmarked, while a few had names scribbled on them. One of those buried there, Mustafa Usta, was killed by sniper fire in his neighbourhood of Souk al-Jumma last week, said his brother, Adnan, 61.

Adnan Usta, a civil servant in the Libyan foreign ministry, said he only learned of his brother's death five days after he was shot, and that his brother was buried in before the family was informed. Despite the personal pain, Usta said he is looking toward the future. "We are free now," he said. "We will build a democratic country."

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